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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Governor Baker announces K-12 school mask mandate lift


Students working at the Campus Center Information Desk pose for a photo wearing masks.

On Wednesday, Feb. 9, Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker and State Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley announced that as of Feb. 28, masks will no longer be required for students or faculty indoors at K-12 public schools in Massachusetts. 

“With Massachusetts a national leader in vaccinating kids, combined with our robust testing programs, it is time to lift the mask mandate in schools and give students and staff a sense of normalcy after dealing with enormous challenges over the past two years,” said Governor Baker in a statement. “We have all the tools to keep schools safe as we move into dealing with the next phase of managing COVID-19.” 

The end of the mandate also carries over to licensed childcare providers; the Department of Early Education and Care will be able to provide more updates on this later in the week.

There are still certain situations in which a student or staff member may still be required to wear a mask.

Masks are still required on school buses due to federal regulations. Certain school districts may continue to mandate masks beyond Feb. 28, and individual students or staff may still choose to wear a mask or face covering as well.

“We ask all school leaders and students to make sure they respect all individual choices around mask wearing,” said Commissioner Riley. “Please make sure to create a supportive environment that respects everyone’s choice to do what is most appropriate and comfortable for them.”

Specific protocol has also been developed in the event a child tests positive for COVID-19. In such a case, students may not go to school for five days after testing positive, and then must wear a mask for five days upon their return to school. 

Over 40 schools in Massachusetts have lifted their mask mandates already, as they have reached a level of over 80 percent vaccination among students and faculty. 

According to The Boston Globe, 51 percent of children aged 5 to 11 in Massachusetts have received at least one dose of the vaccine, while the statistic is around 82 percent for adolescents aged 12-19. However, the Globe also pointed out vaccination disparities between different communities within the state, noting that while in Wellesley, Mass., 83 percent of children aged 5-11 have received at least one dose of the shot, the figure for children of that age in Worcester is just 38 percent. 

Baker and Riley’s announcement comes on the heels of other Northeastern states’ announcements of school mask mandate lifts. Such states include Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. 

Despite several states’ decisions to lift in-school mask mandates, the Center for Disease Control maintains that masking should still be required in schools. 

“I know people are interested in taking masks off. I too am interested. That would be one marker that we have much of the pandemic behind us,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walenksy. “Right now our CDC guidance has not changed […] We continue to endorse universal masking in schools.” 

While many parents and students alike are excited by the decision to lift the in-school mask mandate, many remain cautious or are not in favor of the decision. 

“My feeling is that saying you don’t have to wear masks anymore might signal to them oh—the pandemic’s over. We’re all set. I still need them to have that awareness,” said Gene Faulkner, a sixth grade teacher at the Young Achievers School in Mattapan, to CBS News. 

For more information regarding masking in Massachusetts, visit: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-mask-requirements.